Identifying the Audience for the Koran
The Koran’s audience is universal, without limitation on gender, culture, or religious beliefs. However, the Koran specifically addresses six general groups of people in various passages and at varying lengths:
- Humankind: These verses usually carry universal teachings, warnings, and glad tidings. Such passages usually begin with “O mankind” or “O Children of Adam.” You find most of these addresses in the earlier periods of revelation, known as Meccan Chapters.
- Believers: These verses address Muslim behavior and etiquette and often introduce a law. You also find warnings of falling into the wrong path and glad tidings for those who are steadfast and patient in faith. Such passages usually begin with “O you who believe” or end with “this is for those who believe.”
- People of the Book: The Koran gives a lot of attention to Jews and Christians as recipients of earlier revelations. When the Koran addresses both religious communities, it uses the term “People of the Book.” The Koran uses stories of the respected prophets that all three faiths share to remind People of the Book about the universal message of submission to God alone.
- The Koran sometimes addresses each group separately. For example, after the historic migration of the early Muslim community from the city of Mecca to the city of Medina, Prophet Muhammad interacted with Jewish tribes in discussions and debates about the Koranic revelation. The Koran contains several passages that answer the questions of the Jews and also highlight some of the tensions that existed between the two communities.
- The hypocrites: The Koran finds hypocrisy detestable and uses strong language to condemn it. Usually these verses warn about what awaits hypocrites in the Hereafter and call such people to change their ways from hypocrisy into true belief.
- Rejecters of faith: The Koran speaks extensively about those who reject the Koranic message with philosophical arguments and warnings of disbelief.
- Referring to such people as “unbelievers,” or even worse, “infidels,” is a serious mistranslation of the Koranic concept of disbelief. The word used in Arabic is Kafir, which is a very comprehensive term, but at its core means someone who is ungrateful. From the Koranic standpoint, the greatest ingratitude is to reject the Truth of the Creator (God) after it has been made manifest. However, someone who has never heard the message of the Koran, or only a misrepresentation of its teachings, has never had the opportunity to accept or reject. Therefore, “rejecter of faith” or “denier of God’s Signs and Blessings” are more accurate translations of this Koranic term.
- The reader: When reading the Koran, you can literally find yourself having a conversation with the Scripture as thought-provoking questions come up, one after the other. In one chapter alone the Koran asks 31 times, “Then which of the favors of your Sustainer will you deny?” (55)after recounting the blessings that come from God for mankind.
- The Koran also poses questions to capture the full attention of its readers in an intimate way, such as “Has He not found you an orphan and given you shelter? And found you lost on your way, and guided you? And found you in want, and given you sufficiency?” (93:6–8).